The Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed last week, killing at least 18 people with 145 others unaccounted for. It’s too soon to say whether climate change had anything to do with the tragedy. But the collapse has shone a spotlight on Florida’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change and raised questions about whether the state’s coastal infrastructure is equipped to handle the flooding that comes with sea-level rise.
The climate stakes for Floridians are high. By 2050, buildings in South Florida may be inundated by 2 to 3 feet of sea-level rise, plus 4 or more feet of storm surge. By 2100, the flooding will be even worse. Some counties might be able to afford to raise their roads and build sea walls. But adapting to rising seas is expensive, complicated, and, ultimately, unsustainable — especially in coastal states like Florida, which will experience intensifying Atlantic hurricanes in addition to sea-level rise.
Preventing future tragedies means acting now, said Randall W. Parkinson, a coastal geologist at Florida International University in Miami. He thinks it’s already time to start thinking about... Read more